Journal of the european economic association vol:4 issue:1 pages:216-251
We quantify the competitive effects of liberalizing the selective and exclusive distribution system in the European car market, based on a model of oligopoly pricing with differentiated products. We consider two possible competitive effects from liberalization: (i) the creation of international intrabrand competition (cross-border trade), which will result in a reduction of international price discrimination; and (ii) a possible cumulative effect arising from a strengthening of national intrabrand competition, which would result in reduced double marginalization. We find that the reduction in international price discrimination mainly redistributes consumer gains across countries; it has a positive but modest effect on total welfare. If liberalization also has the cumulative effect of reducing double marginalization, the welfare effects are much higher. Finally, we find that the effects of liberalization on the manufacturers' profits are either small or positive. This finding implies that international price discrimination, and softening competition through a double marginalization mechanism, should not be interpreted as main profit motives for the previous distribution system, but only as unintended side effects. Hence, the industry rationale for maintaining the previous distribution system should be sought in other areas. (JEL: F 15, L42).